Newly anointed with demon-fighting powers and suddenly able to hear the thoughts of her hilarious Jack Russell terrier, a preschool teacher finds a whole new world of dark and dangerous, including a sexy shape-shifting griffin she’s not entirely sure she can trust.
AUGH! *indecisive flailing* FEELINGS…MIXED! Ugh that is the worst. I was expecting this book to be crash and burn awful, but instead it ended up including some interesting elements that I liked…in a confusing mess of a story. I’ll give Accidental Demon Slayer one thing, though – it was off-the-charts weird, and I will take off-the-charts weird over paint-by-numbers mediocre any day.
So the premise of the book isn’t super original: mild-mannered preschool teacher Lizzie Last-Name-I-Forgot discovers on her thirtieth birthday that she is a demon slayer from a long line of demon slayers in her previously unknown biological family heritage, and is dragged into the unseen world of magic and demons and shit because it’s not safe and all the demons want to kill her. Lizzie must learn to embrace her powers and shed her conservative ways, and also there’s a sexy magic dude, yadda yadda, shenanigans ensue. Pretty boilerplate stuff.
However, rather than take it the grimgritty leather-and-Hot-Topic urban fantasy route, Fox decided to quirk this premise the fuck up, and so we have The Accidental Demon Slayer. Here, Lizzie is introduced to the magical world by her long-lost biker-witch grandmother, decked out in skinny jeans and chaps and rhinestone-studded eyelashes, wielding magic in the form of Smuckers jars full of roadkill. Her support team is a coven full of old biker-witches with names like Ant-Eater, Crazy Frieda, and Sidecar Bob, who operate out of a biker bar, and later a deserted riverboat. Here, the local werewolves call the trailer park behind a closed-down Shoney’s “home”, and psychic battles of will between witch and demon are fought in a plastic shed or a dumpster, whichever is most convenient.
Also there’s a talking fucking Terrier. I have no idea why talking, yappy dogs are a Thing, but they’re obnoxious as fuck and need to not be.
So I mean, I’ve never read about old biker ladies fighting shit with roadkill and using the bond between them to protect a thirty-year-old demon slayer lady, and I think that’s a pretty rad concept. The presence of so many women, period – especially in mentoring roles – is really unusual for the genre, as is the general feel of good will towards them. Yes there is one Alpha Bitch who appears briefly as competition for The Man, and yes, there is a lot of conflict between the biker women and Lizzie that is really bizarre and kind of unreasonable and I’ll get to that, but by the end of the book, Lizzie revels in the camaraderie that the biker witches provide, and she’s looking forward to the promise of meeting her love interest’s sisters. So yeah, lots of ladies, minimum competition, liking that a lot.
The Biker Witches are also unabashedly sexual, which is kinda neat. I mean, it seems to be played to freak Lizzie out initially, but they’re never ashamed of or shamed FOR it, so woot. And let’s be real here, having women over the age of like thirty-five in a PNR book is rare enough, so rowdy raunchy biker grannies? Dunno if you’d see that anywhere else.
So that’s cool, I liked that in concept, and I liked where the story ultimately went. The problem is that I have to keep breaking out that word – “concept”. I liked the ideas presented in Demon Slayer a lot, but the execution was super rough. So much of the story, the world, the characters, were just terribly defined. It felt like I was reading the story in a tumble dryer – there was so much shit going on and flying around and not a whole lot of it made sense. I felt like I was missing bits and pieces that would have helped make things more cohesive – character motivations and world-building shit and general context. I’m usually all for being dropped in a world without any expo-duction, but that was just not working here, for anyone.
Lizzie’s grandmother, for example, barges her way in to Lizzie’s home and freaks her the fuck out. Without any sort of sensible preamble whatsoever, she locks Lizzie in a closet and starts throwing around jars full of roadkill because that’s magic in this book and Lizzie needs protection, and ok that’s all well and good, but you know what would be better and more helpful? IF YOU WOULD TAKE A GODDAMN MOMENT AND EXPLAIN THIS TO YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER SO THAT SHE MIGHT COOPERATE MORE FULLY AND NOT THINK THAT YOU ARE A CRAZY PERSON.
Then a demon attacks and Lizzie’s powers activate and the two women go on the run, and there’s a bunch of shit that it would help not just the reader to know, but again, LIZZIE to know to ensure her cooperation, and still the grandmother holds out, because “oh such danger! There’s no time!”, which is the laziest of excuses. Really, it’s because it’s not Time for us to understand the ~mysteries~ of Lizzie’s past, and because so much of the conflict in the book hinges on Lizzie’s ignorance, and our ignorance of what she is supposed to do, so that they can break out the deus-ex-powerset. It’s just so much frustrating contrivance.
The character development suffers from this problem, too – arcs that feel contrived and forced instead of organic. We’re told that Lizzie’s arc is supposed to take her from uptight stick-in-the-mud to wild and free demon slayer who has Embraced Her Sexuality, but I would never have known at least half of this if the book didn’t have the characters keep mentioning it. I had no sense of Lizzie being different as a character when book started. We’re told that she’s uptight, but we don’t see it in her life before, since the supernatural action kicks off so quickly. I guess maybe her responses to the supernatural shit were intended to make her seem uptight, but there’s only so much open-mindedness and cooperation you can expect from someone when you won’t take a moment to explain what the Hell is going on.
Basically, I didn’t buy the personal struggle that Demon Slayer was trying to sell me on. Having trouble adjusting to being a demon slayer? Sure. Making a fundamental adjustment to the way Lizzie was leading her life? Not seeing it. Show me.
The book tried to tie this struggle in to the revelation of her biological heritage, with Lizzie talking a bit about some of the baggage that came with her adopted family, but it was more stuff we were being told about and not shown. I side-eyed Lizzie’s adoption baggage in general, though – the book definitely played in to the idea that she was always “meant” to be with the Biker Witches, and that the life she had before them was a facet of the uptightness that she needed to grow out of to become her ~true self~. Between the resentment of her adopted parents, and the “bond” that she formed with her grandmother despite their lack of emotionally relevant interactions, Lizzie’s arc was a mess of unfortunate birth-family-is-REAL-family implications.
We’re also only given like three to four days for all of this shit to happen, which made for some fucking breakneck development. We’re meant to believe that Lizzie not only adjusted to all of these life-changing events psychologically, but also managed to become the Best Slayer Ever who could do a whole bunch of crap that No Other Slayer Had Ever Done Before, in less than a week. I mean fuck, it might be true, but the reader doesn’t know because we have no way of judging how competent a slayer Lizzie is for ourselves. We have no example or standard to compare her to, and so many of the things that Lizzie does in the end come off like total ass-pulls because she puts no time or effort into them beforehand. The only real defined power that we’re told about is the literal instinct to run towards whatever is most dangerous in the immediate vicinity, and that’s basically just her fucking minimap.
The rest is vaguely-defined plot convenience crap that manifests as the story requires it, which seriously undercuts the showier things that Lizzie does in the finale. She rips her fucking soul in half to save her grandmother, and instead of being like “Ho shit, thanks to what I’ve learned about this world, I understand how serious, difficult, and incredibly traumatic this act is”, your reaction is “FUCKING HAX, I’m glad she figured out that she could do that, cuz no one told me.”
It doesn’t help that the act barely registers in the relentlessly upbeat narration, which couldn’t set an ominous tone if there were point-by-point instructions laid out on a white board in front of it.
The book is just all over the place, there’s an entire interlude with werewolves in the middle that ends up being utterly unrelated to anything else, there’s some conflict with a Biker Witch named Ant Eater that exists and is resolved completely outside the realm of rational human behavior and interaction, Lizzie’s boyfriend gives her what basically amounts to a fucking Witchblade that is way less important than you’d think it would be, I mean, the story is just a gigantic grab bag of crap that didn’t matter or only mattered for thanks to contrivance. Even if it’s doing that thing first books do where they include currently meaningless shit to set up shit further down the road, this is excessive. It should have been better integrated in to the overall plot of this book.
As for the romance, it’s…not as bad as usual? We’re meant to believe that Lizzie falls head-over-heels life-changingly in love with her griffin suitor in like three days, which is probably even less believable than all of the other crap she’s supposed to have accomplished so quickly irl, but this is fucking paranormal romance, so that’s probably the least of my issues here.
Griffin Dude Dimitri is initially a standard doucheboat hero, up to and including inappropriate molestation of the heroine while she’s physically restrained (which is TOTES OK b/c she really wants it you can tell), but he gets somewhat better as the book goes on. Well, “better” in that when he inevitably reveals to Lizzie that he was pursuing her under false pretenses, he at least has the sense to be Genuinely Sorry about it. I do have to give props to Lizzie, though, for a) being proactively angry about it and ditching his ass shirtless, wallet-less, and ride-less in a roadside motel, and b) for being confident enough in herself to not doubt his affection afterward. She’s rightfully pissed and punishes Dimitri for his deception, BUT the conflict doesn’t become one of those confidence-breaking “he never really loved me, how could he love a pathetic loser like me?” things that only exists to stir up drama and keep the main couple apart. They all behave relatively reasonably.
On the whole, despite taking a unique approach to the genre and including some things that I liked, this book has too many flaws for me to recommend. I will probably read the sequel at some point, though, and if it gets any better I’ll definitely report back.
Two ****AND A HALF***** stars